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Virginia Lawmakers Must Act Now and Cover More People in Medicaid

Each week, my colleague Stephanie Glover and I take a short trip to Arlington to volunteer as Certified Application Counselors (CACs). We talk to Virginians about the health coverage options available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and help them enroll in an affordable comprehensive insurance plan. It is very exciting to meet new clients each week—all of whom are uninsured—who are eager to learn about their options and obtain coverage.

The best part of the experience is enrolling a previously uninsured family into health insurance that meets their needs and fits their budget. Clients leave the office happy and incredibly thankful to the volunteers. The worst part of this experience is telling clients that, unfortunately, they are not eligible to enroll today. I try to explain they are not eligible to enroll in a private plan because their income is below the poverty level which means they do not qualify for federal subsidies and yet they earn too much income (or fail to meet other eligibility criteria) to qualify for Virginia’s current Medicaid program.

Because Virginia is one of 26 states that have not taken federal funding to cover more people in Medicaid, hundreds of thousands of residents fall into this “coverage gap.” Most clients are confused and do not understand why they cannot enroll—they have all of their tax paperwork and other documentation with them, and are ready to complete the process. They leave the office frustrated and disappointed. Some ask what they should do in the meantime. Others say they will check with the Medicaid office in the summer to see if anything has changed. Read more »

Forward Progress on Accepting Federal Funds to Cover More People in Medicaid

Last night’s election results are in and it’s a game changer for women and families in Virginia. Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe made the state’s choice of whether or not to cover more people in the Medicaid program a central component of his platform and, last night, the effort to provide coverage for hard-working low-income Virginians just got a burst of momentum with a champion headed to the Governor’s office.

The Medicaid eligibility expansion is a crucial part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—and is a main component of the ACA’s strategy for achieving near-universal health coverage. States may accept federal funding to expand coverage through Medicaid to all qualified individuals under age 65 who have incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty line (FPL), or about $32,500 for a family of four. Approximately 15 million uninsured Americans, including 7 million women, will be newly eligible for health coverage through Medicaid. Read more »

Oral Arguments at the Virginia Sex Court

Following a proposal for a Virginia ban on oral and anal sex among consenting adults – heterosexual and homosexual alike – radio host Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association spoke out in its behalf. Unwilling to specify what he thought the punishment should be for violating the ban, Fischer did say that speeding and/or parking tickets could be issued to those who do. Having spent time in traffic court watching people challenge those tickets, I thought it might be enlightening to imagine ourselves spending a day in the Virginia Sex Court in the year 2015.

Bailiff: Case #1, the State of Virginia v. Andrews and Cooper.

Judge: Officer, please tell us what happened.

Officer C. Block: Your honor, on the evening of June 14th, the two defendants were found parked in a vehicle at lover’s lane. When I approached the vehicle, I witnessed the two defendants engaged in a “Crimes Against Nature” (“CAN”)-violation and issued them the appropriate citation.

Judge: Andrews and Cooper, what do you have to say for yourselves?

Andrews: Well, sir. Betty and I are home from college for the summer and just started dating.

Cooper: And it was only our second date so . . . . I just didn’t want to go past third base.

Judge: Young lady, don’t you know that third base has been outlawed in the state of Virginia? It is all the way or nothing.

Andrews: Yeah, my older brother has been telling girls that since before the law was re-enacted. But, we didn’t have any birth control so I didn’t bring that up.

Judge: No birth control!! Do you think that’s an excuse? Why, there’s birth control with no co-pay available under the health care . . . . [The judge’s clerk interrupts the Judge. They have a whispered conversation.] Oh, well, I’ve just been informed that the House of Representatives has finally succeeded in over-turning that law, and apparently they’ve managed to close all the Planned Parenthoods as well. You’ll just have to risk it like we had to in my day . . . you’ll be fine. My wife and I have been very happy and we became engaged under similar circumstances. Next case.

Read more »

Arlington Shows Support for Children by Maintaining Strong Child Care Standards

Arlington, Virginia has turned back a proposal to eliminate the county’s important child care health and safety standards, thanks to strong advocacy efforts and recognition by County Board members of the importance of protecting our youngest children. The county manager, as part of an effort to address a budget shortfall, had proposed to save $250,000 by eliminating the local Office of Child Care Licensing. But letters and phone calls from the public and research from early childhood experts convinced the County Board that the short-term savings were far outweighed by the benefits of safeguarding children’s well-being.

Arlington County’s child care standards are crucial for ensuring the health and safety of children because Virginia does not set adequate standards of its own. For example, Virginia does not regulate providers caring for fewer than six unrelated children, while Arlington regulates any providers caring for more than three children. Read more »

Abortion Opponents are Not Giving Up on Taking Benefits Away from Women

Oh no he didn’t! Virginia Governor McDonnell Monday night added a ban on insurance coverage of abortion to a health care bill passed by the Virginia legislature. The underlying bill was meant to bring the state into compliance with the federal health care law – in other words, to help ensure affordable and comprehensive coverage for people, not take benefits away. But that’s exactly what Governor McDonnell’s amendment would do. And he’s not the only one.

Abortion insurance coverage bans have been introduced so far this year in at least 10 states. Some of these states are already among the 21 states that have such bans. But this year abortion opponents in those states want to prohibit even more women from obtaining abortion insurance coverage. Like Alabama, where a bill has been introduced to expand their exchange ban to all private plans and to take coverage away from survivors of rape and incest. Read more »

Major Part of Obamacare Has a Chance in Virginia

It’s been an exciting few weeks for advocates who are urging Governors and state legislators to say yes! Last June, the Supreme Court upheld the health care law but let states choose whether or not to take the Affordable Care Act’s funding for covering more people through the Medicaid program. Ever since then, Virginia advocates have had their work cut out for them—making phone calls, knocking on doors, and educating anyone who will listen about the important benefits to the state of Virginia, hospitals and health systems, and to the women and families who will gain the most.

Last weekend, Virginia took a big step forward. The two-year state budget includes a compromise proposal that could lead to Virginia extending coverage to approximately 350,000 Virginians who currently lack health insurance. Under this proposal, a legislative committee will ultimately determine whether the expansion will move forward. Governor McDonnell is currently reviewing this legislation.

What’s at stake by covering more people?

  • Approximately 169,000 Virginian women would gain health insurance coverage
  • Combined with other reforms in the Affordable Care Act, it could reduce the percentage of uninsured women in Virginia from 17 % to 4 %
  • Accepting the money could save Virginia approximately $424 million in uncompensated care costs over the next ten years

Note to Virginia: Accept the Money, Cover the Uninsured

Under the health care law, states can accept significant federal funding to expand health coverage through the Medicaid program. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs in the first few years, and at least 90 percent of the costs after that. As many as 7 million women who are currently uninsured could gain coverage nationwide, including 169,000 uninsured Virginia women. But as governors do the arithmetic and urge their state legislators to accept the federal money, including conservative governors such as Jan Brewer (R-AZ), John Kasich (R-OH), Susanna Martinez (R-NM) and Rick Snyder (R-MI), opponents have begun to ratchet up their rhetoric and recycle worn out misinformation in an effort discourage other states from following suit.

These attacks feature some familiar arguments – Medicaid is a poor program for poor people, states can’t trust the federal government to keep its promises, Medicaid will crowd-out other state priorities. Virginia voters should not be misled by these tired tropes.

Critics like Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute think Virginians should reject the federal money, arguing that Medicaid is a costly component of the state budget. But the truth is that by accepting the federal money, Virginia will be saving taxpayer dollars and helping 169,000 hard-working women and their families get the preventive care and medical services they need. Read more »

Virginia Legislators Refuse to Listen to Women, Again

Remember how Virginia became a national laughingstock last year and “transvaginal ultrasound” became a new buzz word? Remember how Virginia women let it be known that they didn’t want their legislators forcing them to undergo medically unnecessary and physically invasive ultrasounds? Remember how Virginia politicians didn’t listen – they passed a mandatory ultrasound law anyway? Well, Virginia politicians had a chance to right their wrong, and show that they listen to and respect women. A Virginia state senator introduced a bill last week to repeal the ultrasound requirement. And just a week later, a Republican committee has killed the bill. Read more »

NWLC’s Weekly Roundup: February 20 – 24

Today is our last weekly roundup for February, which has been an interesting month. In today’s roundup, I’ve got an updates on the two reproductive rights bills in Virginia I told you about last week, some info on an exciting new video series we’re launching, good news (!) from Maryland, new Civil Rights museums, the outcome of the tragic Yeardley Love murder case, and a segment from last week’s Saturday Night Live. Read more »